Nats not trustworthy

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, May 29th, 2010 - 47 comments
Categories: bill english, Ethics, john key, national - Tags: , ,

Of his not so blind holdings in Whitechapel Ltd, Key says:

“All this means that I have no beneficial interest in Whitechapel Ltd, which is central to Labour’s claims of a conflict of interest.”

This is weasel speak by the PM. We have heard such things before from the Deputy PM, when Bill English was trying to squirm his way clear of his accommodation rort:

“I didn’t have a pecuniary interest in the trust, I never have had, I don’t now and I don’t have any other interests in it.”

“Pecuniary interest” is typically taken to include direct, indirect or shared profit, to the individual or to immediate family sharing the same household. English tried to pull a swiftie by using the term to mean “doesn’t have to be listed in the MP’s Register of Pecuniary Interests”. The criteria for listing a trust depends on a term with a much narrower definition. A trust only needs to be listed if the member has a “beneficial interest”: “an enforceable, proprietary interest in the trust property. Examples of a proprietary interest include ownership and a right to possession or occupation”. Thats a definition so narrow that you can drive a truck round it, which is what English was trying to do.

Well, Bill got caught. The Auditor General found for a common sense reading of “pecuniary interest” and that Bill did have an interest in the trust (see my post here, strangely the AG’s report has disappeared from its parent directory – why? – but Google shows the crucial text of the ruling widely reported).

Looks to me like Key is trying the same trick with “beneficial interest”, using narrow legalese to try and sell a broader lie. Key’s assets are supposed to be blind to him. Before the 3 News report he claimed that they were blind. Now he is claiming something much much narrower. Why?

Big picture, it’s starting to look like the Nats systematically abuse trusts. English and the Endeavour Trust to rort the accommodation allowance. Key and Aldgate / Whitechapel with distinctly dodgy looking connections to decisions on alcohol law. And the whole National Party with Waitemata and Ruahine trusts to anonymise donations and subvert the purpose of the 2005 electoral law. It stinks. It stinks from top to bottom. The whole damn stables needs a good clean out. Start by referring Key’s case to the Auditor General.

47 comments on “Nats not trustworthy”

  1. Tigger 1

    Over on Stuff Tracey (where is my bullet proof jacket?) Watkins is trying to shut the entire debate down… I guess she really wants a seat on Key’s plane for his next secret trip.

  2. ianmac 2

    If the shares in Algate/Whitechapel were sold tomorrow for cash, who would get the money?
    If the Key family benefits then the trust is a farce.
    If Key knew what was in his portfolio before the Trusts, then he would know after the Trusts were formed and could, or there would be the perception of acting accordingly during policy/legislation.
    (Wonder if Joyce has an interest in Roading Companies?)

    • Jim Nald 2.1

      Dear Watkins
      It’s quite simple
      When his trust is blind, he can see
      When his Government is transparent, you can’t see
      Yours lovingly, Sherlock

  3. Gosman 3

    So you disagree with the legal advice that John Key has received on the matter?

    http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/advice+refutes+labour039s+conflict+allegations

    If so then perhaps you have some other legal advice which supports your position?

    I think I’ll be waiting a long long time to see anything like that from any of you lot.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      Try harder, Gosman. The point this post, and the previous post, was making, is that the legal advice is not actually addressing Labour’s point. We aren’t saying the legal advice is wrong, we’re saying it’s irrelevant.

      It’s not a blind trust if you can look up the companies register and see what is in the trust. What is important is that you can see that assets in it, and Key claimed that there was no possible way of him knowing what was in there – a lie or deception or incompetence, and together with swiftly ruling out rising the excise tax on alcohol a clear potential for conflict of interest.

      • Gosman 3.1.1

        Do you have a problem with how all blind trusts are set up or just John Key’s one?

        If it is John Key’s blind trust then there must be something legally wrong with it if it is not truly blind. What is this issue?

        BTW any law changes on alcohol are likely to be put to a conscience vote. Therefore it matters not a lot what John Key thinks on this.

        • Ari 3.1.1.1

          I have a problem that he’s trying to say he’s unaware of his assets and thus doesn’t need to take precautions against conflicts of interest when he clearly IS aware of his assets and therefore DOES need to take precautions. Key campaigned on bringing a higher standard of accountability, transparency, and lower tolerance for corruption to the Beehive. He set his own standards at squeaky clean, and if he can’t live up to them he needs to resign, even if he is still legally in the clear, because this was a central pillar of his campaign.

          • Jim Nald 3.1.1.1.1

            Will the PM ask John Key to resign? If he (the latter) is not blind to him (the former)?

            He (the latter … oh well all right, or the former) might have to get another legal advice.

            Maybe the Tourism Minister should be consulted in parallel.

            Wait, is there another issue in the news to jump on. Ok ok, for the former. Or the latter. Or the third??

    • Marty G 3.2

      how come the lawyer’s letter says Key has no ‘beneficial interest’ in Aldgate while Key’s entry in the pecuniary interests register says he does?

      The letter fails to provide a reason for Whitechapel to exist, other than to let people who know about it see what is in Aldgate.

      • Anita 3.2.1

        This is something I have been wondering about… Highwater Vineyards has to publicly list its shareholding, so something had to be listed for that parcel of shares didn’t it?

        So how could a blind trust ever be truly blind?

        I’m sure there’s lawyer and accountant tricks I’m unaware of, but I have been wondering…

        • mickysavage 3.2.1.1

          You can have a general trust company (for instance) that owns various properties and shares on trust for various beneficiaries. Guardian Trust is an example. Although you can see that Guardian may own some shares you do not know who Guardian owns those shares in trust for.

          A number of law firms have trustee companies set up to do this.

    • Eric C. 3.3

      From the Cabinet Manual – Conduct, public duty, and personal interests section:

      “Ministers are responsible for ensuring that no conflict exists or appears to exist between their personal interests and their public duty. Ministers must conduct themselves at all times in the knowledge that their role is a public one; appearances and propriety can be as important as an actual conflict of interest.”

      The test is not a legal one. It is a test of the Cabinet Manual policies that John Key and his ministers promised to follow when they became ministers.

      John Key needs to explain why he failed this test.

      • Gosman 3.3.1

        The only percveived conflict of interest at the moment is the one dreamt up by the Labour party in a vain attempt to smear the PM.

        If there is an actual conflict of interest then the Speaker will institute an investigation. When he fails to do so it will be interesting to see how you guy’s spin this.

        Pretty much gutter politics but I suppose that is par for the course from Phil Goff’s Labour party.

        • Eric C. 3.3.1.1

          The Speaker is not going to investigate the leader of his own party. Everyone already knows that. Turkey’s don’t vote for an early Christmas.

          • Gosman 3.3.1.1.1

            The Speaker would not be doing his job then. I expect an competent opposition will call for his resignation in that case.

            If the Labour party doesn’t call for the Speakers resignation on this issue if he fails to act then they would be incompetent wouldn’t you agree?

            [lprent: Looking at your comments, you are deliberately flood trolling – 2 week ban.

            There is no content, often no reference to the comments you’re replying to, and no attempt to engage in debate. Basically you’re acting like a dickhead troll.

            I’m also going to unapprove a number of your comments in this session where other people haven’t replied and where you have essentially repeated yourself.]

            • Eric C. 3.3.1.1.1.1

              You are hilarious, Gos. You keep moving the goal posts don’t you? The opposition has to do this, no they have to prove that, no wait they have to do something else.

              John Key has a responsibility to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. He failed and that is a consistent line.

  4. Jim Nald 4

    Call a spade a spade
    A blind trust that isn’t blind to him

  5. Bill 5

    Repeating myself here, but the fact that Johnny was a part of a decision on alcohol taxation that most people are bloody happy with makes it not so wise to try to ping him him on the wine shares. The rights and wrongs are bye the bye I’m afraid.

    Hanging the whole trust issue on the wine is a really bad idea.

    What about the other share parcels?

    What’s there and what are the potential abuses of those? Why are the vineyard shares not being used as a vehicle to access this trust stuff rather than as a static point of contention…one that most people will happily turn a blind eye to because they themselves benefit?

    A couple of days ago I posted a link to a 3 month old video where a wine taster states quite openly his knowledge that Johnny had interests in the wine industry. And if people pay less for alcohol because of that ( and I don’t actually think that’s the case) then people will be thankful to Johnny and anti those who would have them view it otherwise.

    • Marty G 5.1

      It’s a conflict of interest whether you agree with the decisions or not.

      • Jim Nald 5.1.1

        Perhaps there is a desperate hope that there are some many conflicts, all over the place, that they cancel out each other. Poof. Gone. Magic.

      • Gosman 5.1.2

        No it’s not unless you have evidence which proves John Key knows about the relationship his trust has to Whitechapple. Do you have any hard evidence on this or just your politically biased assumption?

      • Bill 5.1.3

        I agree that it’s a conflict of interest regardless Marty, but these things need a head of steam coming from public outrage, disquiet or whatever to go anywhere.

        And even if the lack of tax on alcohol is simply and only because Johnny Boy has interests in the wine industry it, at best, simply does not matter in the eyes of the public. And it doesn’t matter because everybody has an eye for a wee bit of an advantage. And if Johnny engineered his advantage and everybody else came out better off as a consequence then most people are not going to begrudge him his ‘good fortune’.

        And that means there will be no building of a head of steam in the gen pop.

        However, if the other parcels are in areas that could lead to Johnny Boy engineering an advantage that doesn’t spill out to the rest of us in some way or other…and it can be suggested or explained in a way that generates a sense of outrage, then we are in a different game.

        All that aside.

        If the trust was blind, actually blind, then it sure as hell isn’t now. Which means what? That he ( or his agent) has to set up another blind trust, get rid of the shares or what?

        • Jim Nald 5.1.3.1

          hm hmm ….. waiting for the JoKer to think ….. hmmm …..

          1. Grow another blind trust and eye
          2. Reincarnate to Ear-less of Auckland

          3. Try to stop the lengthening nose

          4. When media calls, get Joyce to say cat cut my tongue

  6. Ed 6

    John Key’s ‘leap for the lawyer’ tells us that he is more concerned with strict legal interpretation than honesty, transparency, and ethical behaviour. The Nats are predictably consistent in their contempt for laws they do not think should apply to them.

    Since shares in a ‘blind trust’ will still be registered to someone, perhaps it would be useful to hear how it is supposed to be done. Are ‘blind trusts’ the reason for the large bank nominee companies?

  7. ianmac 7

    If I worked in the IRD wouldn’t it be interesting to find out how much tax Key pays for something he doesn’t own?

    • Gosman 7.1

      So how would you prove from what sources he pays tax on, even if you did work for the IRD?

      • ianmac 7.1.1

        I don’t know Gosman. Haven’t a clue. But at the very least the ongoing discussion, although about your mate Key, does illuminate more about the Trust problem for MPs and us.
        No Right Turn sums it up rather well:
        http://norightturn.blogspot.com/

  8. deemac 8

    The easy ride Key is getting from the media reveals how useless they are – when all the main newspapers are owned by wealthy people who back the Nats, what chance anything critical gets a fair airing?

  9. Oh yes Deemac lets add a conspiracy theory to this storm in a tiny teacup.

  10. Crashcart 10

    As some one who voted for Key and truly regrets it now (especially after this swindle of a budget) I have been agonizing over where my vote should go. ACT is a bunch of loons, no doubt about that. The greens are to narrow in their focus and a little to far to the left. This leaves me with Labour. I have never voted labour in my life. Recent work by the party especially around the mother of all swindles, I mean budgets, was making me more comfortable with that vote.

    This issue however just reminds me about one of the things I hated the most about the labour party towards the end of its tenure. It is spinning up virtually nothing to try to throw mud that will never stick and drawing focus away from that fact that there are real policy issues they can hammer this lame duck of a government on.

    Honestly when you have to resort to arguments based on a bunch of ifs and still only come down to him not doing anything illegal but maybe dishonest then you are drawing your bow-string much to far.

    Please for gods sake Labour. Stick to what you are good at. Attack the policies that make the rich richer off of the back of an ever increasing wage gap. Leave this petty gutter politics in the past where it belongs. If you think this is the way to fight the next election then you will entrench your current support at the cost of swing voters.

  11. ianmac 11

    Crashcart I don’t believe you!

    • Jim Nald 11.1

      They think you’re blind
      They think you’re deaf
      They think you’re dumb
      Keep up the good work and don’t crash too many carts

    • felix 11.2

      “crashcart” you sound so concerned.

    • Crashcart 11.3

      I’m not sure what you don’t believe. I am the first to admit that I have always been a National voter. I was raised that way. I voted for Key and his gang of idiots in the last election and I realise that tar’s me with the same brush. I have however watched what this Government does with growing concern. I think the final straw that convinced me I couldn’t vote for them any more was Blinglish proving that they were just a bunch of greedy pricks who couldn’t wait to get their noses in the trough. I really am becoming more comfortable with the idea that a center left government is what is best for this country (a lot of the links on this very sight have given me valuble information on the problems caused by countries with a high level of inequality).

      What I am saying in my post is that if you are going to try and hang Key personally you are going to need something water tight and truely daming. He has far to many people convinced that he is that nice kid made good who gives his wages to charity and does his job for the love of the country. I have no doubt its a load of bollocks but you need something solid to prove it. All I have seen here is “IF” he signed the transfer of shares, and “IF” he were to look at the holdings of Whitechapel then he still wouldn’t have done anything illegal but it “MIGHT” be dishonest.

      I am sure that he is smart enough to have set his affairs up in a way that allows himself to claim no conflict yet still allows him to keep an eye on what he has. The problem is you can never prove that he did. It will always be Labours word against his and I’m sorry but he has the nice guy image down pat so Labour will lose that fight.

      By all means try and find out all the holdings both on and off shore and see if there is a trend to making decisions that benefit him. If you could find it you would be able to hang him. By trying to blast him on one “MIGHT BE” conflict you shoot your credabiulity down. Dig away at what he is doing to this country in his job as PM where he has no defence. That is the battle that can be won.

      • travellerev 11.3.1

        CC,

        What would you think would be really damning to the average Kiwi voter?

        • Crashcart 11.3.1.1

          Are you asking me to do research to try to find something that will stick? Or do you want me to draw a line in the sand that will let you know what will and won’t stick? Sorry but I can’t give you either.

          You know what will give you an answer to the second? The poll’s. Hate them or love them. They are a representation of what sort of traction you are getting. If this truely sticks and burns Key I will be the first to stand up and say I am wrong. I will be surprised, but wrong.

          • travellerev 11.3.1.1.1

            How about direct proof John Key was involved in a $ 300 million attack of Andrew Krieger on the NZ dollar three days after the ’87 market crash which cost many Kiwi’s their life savings and fortunes. How about John Key being instrumental for Merrill Lynch in the development and sales of derivatives now destroying our financial system or how about John Key being involved in the LTCM hedge fund scandal responsible for the Asian crisis (also costing plenty of Kiwi’s their life savings in the late 90’s.

            Would that do the trick?

      • Draco T Bastard 11.3.2

        As has been said – it’s the perception. But in this case it’s a perception based on a verifiable fact – he can see inside his blind trust.

  12. Santi 12

    “My government will not raise GST”.
    “My government will not impose new taxes”.
    “My government will abolish the Maori seats”.
    “Working For Families is socialism by stealth”.

    Lies and more lies from the well-trained liar, John Key,

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